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In an alternative universe I'm wanting Nazi Germany to maintain as much of its war-achieved empire as possible, via reaching a peace agreement (and not more successful efforts on the war front, or other explanation). Since for most of the early war Nazi Germany had the decisive advantage on the Western front, it theoretically held the advantage in a peace agreement during that time, and even earlier the not-yet-formed allies were extremely hesitant towards becoming involved in the war.

What's the latest point before being pushed back that Nazi Germany could have realistically forged a peace treaty/ceasefire with the Allies, and what political shift in Nazi Germany could justify this attempt at ending the war?

I'm fine with Operation Barbarossa (or any alternative) never happening if necessary, but beyond that I'd prefer avoiding rewriting history as much as possible to justify the ceasefire.

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May 9, 1940. Give or take.

Though I'm no expert, I'd put the date somewhere in the early summer of 1940 - shortly before the start of the Battle of Britain.

Late 1939 and early 1940 witnessed a juggernaut the likes of which had not been seen in Europe for a long time. Germany swept through Poland, the Low Countries, and France, while the Soviet Union made gains in eastern Europe and Scandinavia and Japan continued to fight China and begin to take control of Southeast Asia. It wasn't exactly a walk in the park for the Nazis, especially given opposition from Britain and France before Hitler set his sights on them, but it was easy nonetheless.

Let's step back a bit to my main protagonist, Great Britain. By May 10, Prime Minister Neville Chamberlain - famously known for his appeasement of Germany via the Munich Agreement two years prior - has left office, stepping down to let a stronger government lead. While he opposed Hitler after the invasion of Poland and even refused offers of peace, he was not likely to meet the success that Winston Churchill found when he stepped into his first term as prime minister that spring.

Given the situation at the time - France about to fall, Europe overwhelmed from the south, east and center, and no significant help forthcoming from the United States - you could say that there was a perfect storm happening. The right things happened at the right time to galvanize British patriotism:

  • May 13: Churchill's "Blood, toil, tears, and sweat" speech was essentially an ultimatum to Hitler that Britain would not surrender, although that was more explicitly captured on June 4 in his "We shall fight on the beaches" address.
  • May 26 - June 4: The Miracle of Dunkirk marks the end of the British campaign in France as hundreds of thousands of soldiers retreat across the Channel, but it is an early moral victory for the British.
  • June 10: Italy declares war on Great Britain and France. With multiple governments in exile still in London (including Poland and Norway), it becomes clear that Britain is almost alone. France surrenders to Germany on June 25, making this final.

Then the Battle of Britain began, around July 10 - the Battle of France was over - and Great Britain essentially committed itself to defending what was left of Allied Europe. Only by breaking Britain could Hitler win at this point, and that would require a military victory which you have ruled out. Once in motion, the British military complex would not stop until Operation Sea Lion - the plan to invade Britain - was stopped, and then some.


It would indeed be hard to justify why Hitler would be willing to make this offer. It's true that he offered a peace treaty to Britain and France early in October (both declined, obviously), which is a bit puzzling, given his success in Poland. I wonder of the same rationale could apply here.

Reason for a treaty:

  • It saves German military power for future battles (Hi there, Stalin!). The German military had certainly suffered losses during the Battle of France - ongoing, as of May 9 - and winning that and then taking Britain was by no means a sure feat. We know, of course, that this failed.
  • It definitively puts Germany at the top. At this point, Italy has not declared war on Britain of France; Germany is the main Axis aggressor (the Soviet Union is still in the picture). It makes sense to get the whole pie now, rather than have to share it if the Italians get there, too.

Reasons against a treaty:

  • Defeating France and Britain by force means they really aren't coming back, nor are the governments in exile hiding there. Europe is all Hitler's.
  • Taking over that much of a continent by force sends quite the message. Other nations (cough cough United States cough cough) may not want in on this fight.
  • Hitler didn't have much to make him think that it wouldn't be possible to beat his opponents - again, though pure force. The blitzkrieg had worked so far. Why should it stop?
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    $\begingroup$ According to Wikipedia, Germany didn't invade France until May 10th. I was going to disagree with you and say that World War became inevitable with the invasion of France, but then the date I would have picked would be May 9th...the day before the invasion of France. $\endgroup$ – kingledion Dec 7 '16 at 1:15
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After 10 May 1940 but before September 27, 1940

After looking a bit into this I realized that there were two major problems with this hope: America and Russia. If you want Nazi Germany to survive, we need to keep them out of the war.

Let's start with America, although the war began with Nazi Germany's attack on Poland in September 1939, the United States did not enter the war until after the Japanese bombed the American fleet in Pearl Harbor, Hawaii, on December 7, 1941. So we need to keep Japan out of the war to, which means this peace deal needs to happen before japan allied with Germany(they may still do pearl harbor, but they cannot be part of the axis), which is on September 27, 1940. For this, I suggest a timeline where Germany has put in clear unfair small print for Japan in the Tripartite Pact, and thus Japan does not sign, instead being its own side.

Now for Russia, this is the biggest problem, as Russia joined in as it was allied with Poland. But this is where your answer lies. Germany needs to sign its peace treaty with Russia somewhere in late 1939 and unoccupy Poland, focusing on its Western neighbors. After that it will still, if nor more, heavily occupy France and likely win in holding it. After 10 May 1940 but before September 27, 1940 is your best bet

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    $\begingroup$ This period is basically the Battle of Britain, which was possibly the height of British patriotism during the war. I doubt that so long as Churchill was in office, and while Britain still had any significant strength, they would have been willing to sign even an armistice. During this time frame, you can consider them to be the only free Allied power in Europe, and not one willing to accede. Before May 10, by the way, Neville Chamberlain was the British prime minister - much more likely to want to appease Hitler than Churchill was. $\endgroup$ – HDE 226868 Dec 7 '16 at 0:23
  • $\begingroup$ Perhaps a single critical change would be for Hitler to abandon the Tripartite Pact after Japan's attack on Pearl Harbor, instead of declaring war on the US. Without active US participation in Europe (and there was a strong popular movement to stay out prior to Pearl), the Germans could likely have held western Europe and commited more force to the eastern front. There might not have been an actual peace treaty with Britain, instead evolving into a Cold War-like standoff. $\endgroup$ – jamesqf Dec 7 '16 at 20:10
  • $\begingroup$ "Russia joined in as it was allied with Poland" You mean in alternative history??? Because in RL the Soviet Union started the war as a de facto ally of German Reich in joint conquest of Poland and nearby countries. $\endgroup$ – Shadow1024 Dec 11 '16 at 21:06
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Obligatory "Not an actual historian, just basing an answer off of what I know"...

I would say the middle to end of May, 1941.

England has pushed back (the brunt of) the German attacks on Britain (the Blitz has ended, but raids are still happening at a reduced rate), but things aren't going well in the rest of the world. England is making some headway in Africa, but they also have to fight a new Nazi-sympathetic regime in Iraq - Fuhrer Directive No. 30 said that "The Arab Freedom Movement in the Middle East" was Germany's "natural ally against England", so there were an awful lot of possible insurrections and rebellions that needed to be dealt with. In addition, it was in May 1941 that England began to evacuate and eventually lost Crete, meaning that Germany had cemented its hold over the Mediterranean - at the end of April, Greece had surrendered to Germany, so there really wasn't any opposition left.

Inside Germany, May saw the Strike of the 100,000. Somewhere around 70,000 workers in Belgium and Flanders went on strike, partly for increased wages, partly to protest the German occupation. The Nazi party was concerned that something like that could happen again, and would arrest 400 people in September 1942 for supposedly planning another strike. They obviously understood that people didn't exactly like living in an occupation, so it would be easy enough to imagine an alternate history where Germany offered peace so that they could stabilize their new population.

The other big thing is that in late May, a German U-boat sunk the US merchantman SS Robin Moor. While it didn't have as much of an effect on the US population as the sinking of the Lusitania did in WWI, it certainly solidified the Roosevelt Administration's dislike of Germany. Shortly after the sinking, German assets in the US were frozen and the State Department asked Germany and Italy to remove all consulates from US soil except the main embassies. While the US was already sending aid to England and China due to the Lend-Lease Bill, the sinking of Robin Moor made them dislike Germany even more.

If we look at it all through a certain lens, we can see England fighting on its own (plus some aid from the US) against a Germany that is gaining ground all across Europe and getting new allies in Middle Eastern rebels it supports, but facing internal strife from all the land it's occupying. The USSR is still allied with Germany until June 22 (Barbarossa). I can see a German offer of peace being successful at that point, since the US is still unwilling to truly join the war and England has just been hit with a string of defeats.

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You need to remove unconditional surrender from the conduct of the Second World War.

After the United States entered World War II, Franklin D. Roosevelt declared at Casablanca conference to the other Allies and the press that unconditional surrender was the objective of the war against the Axis Powers of Germany, Italy, and Japan. Prior to this declaration, the individual regimes of the Axis Powers could have negotiated an armistice similar to that at the end of World War I and then a conditional surrender when they perceived that the war was lost.

Source: Wikipedia entry on Total War

Had Hitler sued for peace prior to the American entry into the War, then yes it might have been possible. There is still the small problem of Winston Churchill who would have been most likely to disagree. So this suggests an even smaller window of opportunity. Nazi Germany negotiated a peace settlement prior to Churchill assuming the premiership of Great Britain.

Essentially it was the doctrine of unconditional surrender that would have blocked any peace treaty to preserve a Nazi German Empire.

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How about May 1941 before Germany decided to invade USSR?

Map courtesy of Wikimedia Commons: World Map April 1941

The map is from April, but May is a good month between major events which should give the various groups a chance to cool off.

USSR still had its non aggression pact in place with Germany so USSR would not likely get involved. United States had not been involved yet in the war and so would not get a say at the bargaining table. France would still demand its freedom, but Germany might be able to keep part of it. Several smaller countries joined the Axis powers rather than being conquered by them and they would want their freedom too. Italy would likely want to keep a good hold on Africa and possibly Greece. All of these things would eat away at the territory under Germany's control leaving its holdings post peace treaty not being as impressive.

If you go any further into the future Hitler and Japan do a very good job with getting countries mad with the Axis powers (USSR and US), which would make trying to settle for peace near impossible. Lastly, note that Japan likely would not recognize a peace deal and would continue fighting.

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